Created by Alan Lepofsky
Socialtext 3.0 delivers connected collaboration with context, both internally within the organization and externally with customers and partners in extranet communities. It is built on a modular and integrated architecture that enables rapid integration with other enterprise systems and makes other enterprise applications social.
Just outta beta, you can get a free trial now.
Socialtext Signals, an integrated Twitter for-the-enterprise
We also announced Socialtext Signals, integrated microblogging for the enterprise. Socialtext Signals is social messaging for the enterprise connected with context. With the rise of Twitter, more people are learning the benefits of microblogging as a medium for conversations and sharing each day. Socialtext developed a standalone version six months ago. Using it internally we've learned how different usage is from Twitter, not just because it is more private, but because it is in the context of a company. The social patterns of what people say and share has taught us a lot about potential use cases. Now in private beta with Socialtext customers, Socialtext Signals will provide an integrated user experience across Socialtext Workspace, Socialtext Dashboard and Socialtext People.
Conversations Connected with Context
Socialtext Signals is built upon a Connected Collaboration Platform for an integrated user experience. This provides two forms of microblogging:
One benefit we have observed with Signals is helping the signal to noise ratio. For example, if someone makes edits to four wiki pages and summarizes what they did in a signal. Another pattern is what someone does can serve as a weak signal and through signal conversations be elevated to a strong signal for a broader group to pay attention to. But the general pattern of value for signaling is sharing context. Not only does Socialtext Signals enable people to share context, but it benefits from the context of who people are through Profiles and how they collaborate in Workspaces. Socialtext People contains Update Feeds that are automatically generated by the activity of people. When combined with Socialtext solutions such as Service & Support, connected collaboration with context could increase the integrated value proposition. For a major electronics manufacturer with five thousand employee call center using Socialtext for knowledge sharing and documentation, they decreased time-to-resolution by 10-30% according to their own measures. With greater context and the ability to gain collective insight from the group without costly interruptions, the organizational capability could be substantially greater.
Get answers without interrupting people
A common social pattern on twitter is to ask questions to find information or people. The results can be surprisingly effective, but also efficient. Beyond search, you are tapping into the collective intelligence of participants. Rapidly. And without the costs associated with other communication mediums for asking people questions. This is because the constraints of microblogging actually support efficient communications:
While the integrated value proposition of Socialtext Signals will be greater with process-specific solutions, the broader values include speed of communication, knowledge sharing, context sharing and collective intelligence.
I'm really proud of the entire team for getting out our most substantial upgrade in years. Eugene Lee has brought a great focus on execution across the company and the outside world only sees it through punctuated events like this one. Also, my heartfelt thanks to Pete Kaminski who developed the standalone version and added greatly to this vision.
Monica Hesse of the Washington Post has one of the most interesting and enjoyable reads of the year, Bytes of Life. Its on the subject of Lifetracking. Unlike Lifestreaming, its not sharing information, but data. Using services to collect and capture data about the otherwise mundane, share it, compare it and make sense of it. Just go read it, or enjoy the excerpts below until you do.
So what is Lifetracking about?
It's not about tracking what you do, they say. It's about learning who you are.
And how does it help me with enlightenment?
These ideas are the types of heady possibilities that will be discussed by the members of a new group in San Francisco called Quantified Self. Members plan to meet monthly to share with one another the tools and sites they've found helpful on their individual paths to self-digitization. Topics include, according to the group invite: behavior monitoring, location tracking, digitizing body info and non-invasive probes.
"Don't you think it's kind of obvious that if you step on a scale, there should be something that sends the information to your computer?" asks Gary Wolf, a contributing editor at Wired magazine and one of Quantified Self's co-founders. "Isn't it ridiculous to think that blood pressure shouldn't be measured at least once a day, if not several times a day?"
Wolf is a tracker whose particular interest is the secret workings of his own body.
You listen to his questions -- posed energetically and frequently interrupted by excited laughter -- and you think No, Gary, no!
For what possible reason would otherwise sane people dedicate brainpower and man-hours to charting experiences at which they themselves were already present?
"I was always a terrible self-journaler," says Messina. "Every once in a while I'd write in a journal, but it was always a major, momentous event. 'Got to college.' 'Broke up with girlfriend.' You lose a lot of the nuance that caused that situation to come about."
Tracking can "zoom out over my entire life," he says. It could, for example, help him better understand the aforementioned breakup. "When you've self-documented the course of an entire relationship, trivia that doesn't seem like much could, over time," help him understand exactly what went wrong, and when.
But I'm blogging a bunch, doesn't that count?
Self-tracking, on the other hand, is partly about the recording, but also as much about the analysis that goes on after the recording.
Sounds like work, and maybe more group therapy than I'm ready for. Thank goodness this isn't for everybody...
"For a certain type of person," says Wolf, the Quantified Self founder, "data is the most important thing you can trust. Certain people think a feeling of inner certainty is misleading."
Let's sprinkle some science on it...
Computers don't lie.
This part's actually good science:
"We all have the tendency to see our behaviors in a little bit of a halo," says Jayne Gackenbach, who researches the psychology of the Internet at Grant MacEwan College in Alberta, Canada. It's why dieters underestimate their food intake, why smokers say they go through fewer cigarettes than they do. "If people can get at some objective criteria, it would be wonderfully informative." That's the brilliance, she says, of new technology.
Perspective, and the cost of it is decreasing rapidly so long as you are willing to share. And we know where the trendline of sharing is going. While the article I've just bastardized ends by warning against Personalized Taylorism, and I'm itching to comment about how this relates to the enterprise, let me make it personal.
If someone makes an iPhone app that enables one-button lifetracking of whenever I have a smoke, I will transcend my Pavlovian overlords and quit with my fellow man. I even have a name for it, iQuit.
Michael Idinopolus has a good post exploring the differences and complements of wikis and document management systems.
...The two activities get confused because document management, like collaboration, involves creation of content by multiple people. For many companies, the DMS is the first tool they implemented that enabled more than one person to touch a single, centrally stored piece of content. And the document management vendors began to capitalize on the opportunity by introducing document-centric team rooms (like Documentum's eRooms, for example.) As a result, many companies began to use the DMS as a collaboration tool. The DMS wasn't very good at it. It required every piece of collaborative content to be saved as a document. Search was cludgy or non-existent, and everything had to be filed in a nested folder structure. But it was better than nothing, or email.
Last week I saw first-hand a good example of this phenomenon recently at a major executive search firm. They wanted a way to collaboratively publish questions, comments, slides, bios, etc., and engineered an entire intranet around eRooms. It was cludgy, and adopted primarily by power users who took the time to create a Byzantine taxonomy of folders and sub-folders.
All of which brings me back to my meeting with the retail bank. When asked about the relationship between DMS and collaboration tools, what I said was that some of the content in a typical DMS really belongs there. These are the documents associated with highly regulated processes. But most of the content in a typical DMS--to-do lists, meeting notes, press clippings, conversations, working papers, personal observations--doesn't really belong there. It's in the DMS because there was no good place to put it. That's where a collaboration suite can do a much better job. A good collaboration suite can liberate that content from the tyranny of documents and nested folders, and will encourage people to use it for actual working materials...
He goes on to discuss integration and conclude by saying "Use your document management system to manage documents, and use your collaboration suite to collaborate." Which is obvious unless you are stuck between systems as most people are these days.
But something else occurred to me when reading this passage:
Collaboration, by contrast, is all about people working together to share ideas, notes, questions, comments, etc. Collaboration does not typically follow a standard process; it is much more free-form and free-flowing. Documents are not typically the format of choice. Asking a question or creating a meeting agenda or to-do list doesn't require a document; it just requires typing some words and putting them where other people can see and edit them. That's why so many people simply fire off an email when they collaborate; it spares them the unnecessary step of creating a document.
I've written a lot about how we bend email into everything, and Michael says things need less bending with emails than documents. But I don't think I've emphasized enough the transition from document-centric to message-centric to people-centric.
Enterprise 2.0 lets us shift things from documents and emails because not only in many cases its easier, but better. We connect and remember messages in context. And the most important context includes people to make it social. The atomization of the web has largely happened and the enterprise is next.
As it does, practices change. We find that reporting as side activities in documents is not only inefficient, but less effective. Models of building stocks turn into flows of context.
Something better left for someone else to explore is how major shifts in modalities shift how we think. The constraints and formality of the business memo vs. the conversations and decreasing formality of email vs. transparency and memory of social software. The act of writing in mediums of messages must change us.
Last week I was on a panel at Office 2.0 discussing "who owns community?" Organizational Development was just one topic we explored, and ZDnet has a brief video excerpt. In this post, let me clarify my comments.
Leadership in Distributed Organizations
My CEO Eugene Lee was recently an executive at Adobe and Cisco. The transition over the past year wasn't just from Bigco to Startup. Half of Socialtext's employees are distributed across four continents. Eugene recently observed that "in a distributed organization, leadership matters more than management."
This isn't just about motivating distributed teams. Distributed teams have higher coordination costs without a clear direction. This is similar to Eugene Kim's point that "there is no such thing as collaboration without a goal." An extreme example is viewing Wikipedia as distributed mass collaboration, where the clear mission of what to create and why not only attracts volunteers, but reduces the costs of coordinating them to the point where a phantom authority can work.
At the scale of a distributed startup, leadership amounts to establishing a focus. If you attempt to manage at the task level instead of providing a framework for team members to decide if something is within or without the focus of the team, the team isn't moving fast enough. Management does provide the process discipline and measurements to sustainably keep the smaller decisions in check with focus, but it underperforms in abscence of leadership. And there is another word for too much management, overhead.
When everyone works in one place, "management by walking around" comes at the cheap. Walking around four continents is not. As our distributed collaboration tools get better at sharing social context as a byproduct of being productive, new management practices unfold. I think we are just beginning to discover the practices for managing networked organizations, and one of them is the emphasis of leadership.
Who Should "Own" Community?
On the panel I answered with the always correct answer that "it depends." But also suggested that ownership of community will trend in two directions. Social Software has made community a strategic imperative for many organizations. Recalling when risk management became a strategic imperative in some industries about ten years ago, you saw the rise of the Chief Risk Officer. While the emergence of a new CxO function is fleeting at best, I was provocative to make a point that we could see the rise of the Chief Community Officer to align and coordinate internal and external communities.
But there is a more likely scenario -- where community becomes a function of process ownership. I don't beleive it will be left to specialist Community Managers who report into Marketing. Community will become a facet of everyone's job. Not just external communities for customers and partners and media and investors and developers and more. Every process in the enterprise has the potential to be redesigned with more transparency and participation through Social Software.
At some point in the not-too-distant future, Process owners will lead communities. They have the domain expertise within and around the process to drive conversation and collaboration around aligned goals. However, it will take time to acquire community skills and for the organization to transition.
360 Degree Process Communities
Let me illustrate this scenario. Today ownership in corporations of customer communities commonly resides in marketing. This makes sense when you consider "Marketing is the whole business seen from the customer's point of view" (Peter Drucker twittered via Tim O'Reilly & John Battelle). But marketing doesn't own all the more specialized processes that create this view, so Marketing Managers become traffic cops and attempt to interface the whole organization. Customer communities are more sterile, homogenized and veneer than they will be in the future. When people seeking support, sales, partner, developer and media conversations intersect primarily with one part of the organization that has its own goals and measurements -- you have an elephant trying to fit through a keyhole and nobody knows who has the key.
Before issuing a call for a COO, consider this evolution. Support often is the next group to take ownership of its community. Sometimes there is organizational alignment behind it (the VP of Support also owns Product Quality, or dotted lines with Marketing). With this more specialized ownership, the VP of Support then manages two communities and possibly a third. Contact Center employees and customers seeking after-market product support, and potentially tapping across the entire organization to help resolve exceptions.
This is a 360 degree view of community around a set of processes. Consider the same for Marketing. More specialized ownership would have them transition MarCom processes into driving the conversations around those communications. But also increased focus on internal communities, beginning with their most important customers, sales (we just concludes a webinar series on collaboration between marketing and sales, available for download). In today's market, where 50% of consumers trust the voice of the rank and file employee over the CEO, the more active Marketing is in internal communities, the more successful external communities become.
Initially, 360 Degree Process Communities will be formed by front office such as marketing, sales, business development, professional services and support. HR has already begun this evolution within the back office. And while you may discount it at first thought, don't rule out process communities in back office functions like finance where you least expect it.
Process to Practice
Mike Gotta once made an important distinction clear for me. That Process is "how work should be done." And Practice is "how work is actually done." When process fails (exceptions), people use practice to fix things. When process doesn't exist, practice fills the void. While people don't realize it when they engage in practice, they actually are tapping into community -- an informal social network within or beyond the enterprise to discover expertise and get things done. The problem is that we haven't had the tools to support good practice. The problem is that we haven't developed the group memory around practice that creates institutional leverage. In fact, we still design organizations to prevent practice and cultures that hoard knowledge and communities. With all the focus on Process Execution, its time to instill at least awareness of Practice Execution.